EUGENE – A failed fourth down attempt with just over 96 seconds gifted Washington life after it appeared all but gone.
Tied at 34 with the ball at the Oregon 33-yard line the Huskies obtained ideal field position to set up a potential game winning field goal. Senior Peyton Henry hooked an attempt from 37-yards in 2018 that would’ve given UW the victory four years ago.
Henry got his redemption Saturday night.
“It means everything,” Henry said after the game. “There’s no feeling like this at all, I’d say. Biggest kick of my career and I’m glad I could help the team win tonight.”
Henry converted a 43-yard field goal with :51 seconds remaining to give UW a 37-34 lead. It still left the Ducks with almost a minute to tie the game.
Oregon converted its third and final fourth down attempt when Bo Nix found sophomore wide receiver Troy Franklin for a 19-yard gain. Nix hit fellow sophomore Bucky Irving for a 10-yard completion on the following play to get the Ducks offense to midfield with :14 seconds left.
The Ducks couldn’t find it in the final seconds to suffer their second defeat of the season and the first loss to the Huskies since 2017 and the first home loss to UW in seven seasons.
Going into this weekend first-year head coach Kalen DeBoer understood the importance of the UW-Oregon rivalry. After the win DeBoer acknowledged it’s a deserved result for the players in the locker room.
“I know it’s huge,” DeBoer said after the game. “Probably where it’s at with me right now, it’s about these guys in the locker room and just everything they’ve been through in the last couple of years. Seeing the emotion – they deserve it.”
That emotion was evident on the field as the Huskies celebrated their 37-34 victory.
Michael Penix Jr. went from end zone to end zone dapping up his teammates before high-fiving fans as he went up the tunnel. Jalen McMillan, a sophomore receiver who came into the game with just two 100-yard games, led the team with eight receptions for 122 yards, his first 100-yard game against a conference opponent.
McMillan made a statement in the second quarter taking away an interception from Christian Gonzalez and hauling in a 34-yard pass from Penix to set up a 27-yard field goal by Henry to give the Huskies a 13-10 lead at halftime.
“I kind of thought Mike was going to throw it a little longer so I could run,” McMillan said of the player. “But he threw it on a line, so I had to adjust to it. I caught it. I had my one hand on it the whole time. It was a wrestling match the whole time. You know, it’s big dawg football. I had to come away with it.”
Washington State was the only school in the conference to lead Oregon at halftime this season out of the six Pac-12 opponents they’ve faced. Both games ended with a field goal difference.
After combining for 23 points in the first half the two teams put up 35 points in the third quarter alone with Oregon holding a slight edge, 21-14, leaving the final 15 minutes to decide the game.
Penix uncorked a pass to third-year freshman wide receiver Ja’Lynn Polk who caught the ball at the Oregon 32-yard line and took it the rest of the way for a 76-yard touchdown with 5:03 left in the third quarter.
It turned out to be the first of two 50-plus yard scoring throws for the junior southpaw.
His second, a 62-yarder to sophomore receiver Taj Davis, tied the game back up with 3:07 remaining in the game. The pair of touchdown throws pushes Penix to 25 on the season, tied for fourth-most in a season with Brock Huard who hit the quarter century mark in 1997.
“This is number one, man,” Penix said, when asked where this win ranks in his career.
“I’m a Dawg. I love this. I love this feeling. I love my brother’s that’s in that locker room right now. It was a great team win. That was beautiful.”
Penix finished with 408 yards passing on 26 of 35 attempts, his second 400-yard plus game of the season and extends his streak of 200-plus passing yards in a game to nine straight.
Most importantly, UW is 8-2 and still in position for a Pac-12 Championship berth with two games remaining; at home against Colorado next Saturday and Thanksgiving weekend in Pullman against Washington State.